This month's Recipe Redux theme is a dream come true for this Korean girl. Why you may ask? Because it's all about "fermented foods!" Of course, I immediately thought about KIMCHI! If you want to learn more about this food that defines Korean cuisine as well as a recipe to a very popular dish, click here.
Although kimchi is getting all the spotlight these days, I thought I'd share with you another common and essential fermented ingredient that you may not be so familiar with - "doenjang" or soybean paste. If you're not a fan of spicy foods, you just might fall in love with this one.
Doenjang is made from dried soybeans that are boiled and ground coarsely. Bacillus subtilis (Microbiology was one of the most entertaining courses I took..am I alone on this?) is the bacteria responsible for the fermentation process. Over time, other beneficial bacteria work their magic and enrich the mixture with vitamins and other nutrients.
The mixture is then separated into liquid and solid components. The liquid is what we use most commonly in Asian cooking, soy sauce. The solid component is doenjang.
This flavorful condiment is used in many vegetable side dishes, soups, and stews. I want to share with you one of the most popular and common ways to enjoy it..."Doenjang Jjigae" or Soybean Paste Soup.
There are many variations to this soup, and it's most commonly made with either beef or clams. I decided to go with clams. In addition, I added spinach (although normally made with zucchini) because I happen to think that spinach and doenjang were made for each other. Finally, it can be made spicy by adding chili flakes, which turns the broth into a brilliant red color. However, I wanted to keep it on the mild side.
Korean Soybean Paste Soup with Spinach and Clams
- 3 ½ cups water
- Approx. one dozen clams
- 1 cup leeks, cut into big chunks
- A bunch of spinach, approx 190g. (Regular not baby spinach!)
- 2 Tbs soybean paste
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
- 1 jalapeno, sliced (seeds removed or not..it's up to you)
- ½ block of firm tofu
- Scrub clams clean under cold water. Wash leeks thoroughly to remove all dirt. In a pot, boil water, clams, and leeks. Once clams open, strain out clams and leeks and save broth.
- Rinse spinach thoroughly. Blanch for 30 seconds in boiling water. Squeeze out all the water. Roughly run knife through it. Mix it with 1 Tbs soybean paste and 1 teaspoon garlic.
- To the liquid from step 1, add 1 Tbs soybean paste using a mesh strainer. Mash it down to incorporate with broth. *
- When broth boils, add spinach mixture, jalapeno, and tofu. At the end, add clams.
* This step is to ensure that no big chunks of the paste get into the broth.
See those big chunks? That's why you need to strain the paste. Try to mash them down and incorporate into the broth as well. No wasting around here, folks! 😉
Add tofu and jalapeno into the broth. Then add the clams. Voila!
Serve with rice and, of course, kimchi!
Mommy! I made doenjang jjigae! Too bad she doesn't know about this blog..she'd be proud of me ;).
Now, to see many more amazing recipes for fermented foods, go check out all my fellow recipe reduxers!